Vaishnava Janato1…A bhajan close to Mahatma Gandhi... A song that depicts the ethos of Indian society… Thoughts that were born from a society that was under stress from political stress of repeated invasions..from a person whose poverty or social status did not affect the soaring of his soul.. A song that elevated everyone who listens, but more importantly has a strong message in simple language… Narasinh Mehta’s masterpiece..
The song though addressed to Vaishnava – a devotee of Vishnu, is a simple prescription to all mankind, even to an atheist. Even an atheist wants to show off as a humanist, devotee of humanity. Irrespective of whom we are devotee of, the values outlined in the bhajan is simply the prescription needed to cure the ails of the current generation.
Can one feel the pain of others and help others in misery by reining in the ego and taming the mind? Can we not censure others, be good to others in thoughts, words and deeds? The mother of such a soul is blessed. A theme that has been central to our Indian culture. Thiruvalluvar echoes the same as
ஈன்ற பொழுதின் பெரிதுவக்கும் தன்மகனைச்
சான்றோன் எனக் கேட்டதாய்.
The mother who hears her son called "a wise man" will rejoice more than she did at his birth.
Mehta challenges us to see all equally, free from Raaga (Like) and Dvesha (Dislike), respect all women as mother. Never to embrace falsehood or touch other’s wealth. Remain detached, remembering the Lord’s name. Such a person, devoid of deceit, lust and anger and whose virtue liberates their entire lineage.
How is this relevant today? Every syllable of it. As a society we are totally divorced from these values. We increasingly believe in the welfare of the three most important people in our lives – I, ME & MYSELF. Our actions are muddled by this strong ego. Some manage to liberate themselves and expand but only to get trapped at a slightly higher level, be it family, village, community, caste or region. But there are others who can elevate themselves to encompass entire humanity or even entire cosmos. At this rarified level, the vision that guides is universal love and compassion.
This is crystallized in Saint Thayumanavar's cryptic two words
அன்பே சிவம் -(Anbe Sivam) Love is God.
In an often misunderstood explanation Love is God, usually due to the mere social angle of understanding. This is more of an exclamation of experience.. Anubhava Vakhya akin to Mahavakya Ayam Atma Brahman (That Atman is Brahman). Mere parroting anubhava vakhyas do not take us there. Same is true with Anbe Sivam.
Since we are more receptive to the western authors, let me highlight the thoughts of couple of them.(In course of time, I would want more of us to lean on Indian scriptures, sayings and proverbs to guide, not merely west) In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People2, Stephen Covey, elucidates the concept of Dependence, Independence and Interdependence as the three paradigms of human interactions. Needless to say at Interdependence, humans not only are most effective, but also a vehicle that will enable the Self Actualization principle as expounded by Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs3.
In Bhagavad Gita’s last chapter, Krishna outlines the threefold gunas – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas which he declares as the core of any existence in the universe. One’s thoughts, words, actions, fruit of actions, way we perceive things as pleasure and pain and consequentially our duties are dependent and conditioned by one’s vision. This is very obvious in the way we limitedly understand this principle by applying to social causes. We emphatically conclude that environment plays a big role in the person’s behavior. We can gain more if we apply more of this distilled wisdom from the yore.
So how can we turn this aircraft carrier? Only by instilling higher values in individuals, we can achieve this. Just like we can ensure better traffic sense in public by raising individual’s awareness to the duties and responsibilities of a road user, we must focus on the individual’s inner value system. To raise the next generation of great citizens of humanity, we have to focus again and again on our own value system.
Are we compromising the higher ideals and an opportunity to live life as an exemplar for the cheap trinkets of materialistic selfish outlook? It again comes from the vision. Some are blessed to be born with it. But others can grasp it by association with the wise. In the past, when Gurukuls existed, the Gurus acted as a role model. Today we are left to such ideas only in scriptures and good books.
Can we hold this bhajan (tune is our choice.. that’s the mental makeup of the personality) closer to our heart. Use it as a role model. Instead of the crazy cinema songs, can we replace this message in our mind. I am sure we can raise the bar of individual excellence. The Four purusharthas (will write later sometime) – Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha are mere four dimensions of human existence – Social, Financial, Psychological and Spiritual. How can one tread these waters and scale higher peaks when we cannot master the basics?
Lucky for us, we can always revisit the basics by listening or singing Vaishanva Janato…
Om Tat Sat